Celebrating Africa

The African Students’ Union put on the African Culture Show on Saturday night in the Union Ballroom. The event was full of dancing, music, poetry, comedy, fashion and food. Steffi Lietzke / The Daily Utah Chronicle
The African Students’ Union put on the African Culture Show on Saturday night in the Union Ballroom. The event was full of dancing, music, poetry, comedy, fashion and food.
Steffi Lietzke / The Daily Utah Chronicle

CULTURAL REPRESENTATION Students celebrate Africa’s diverse cultures and customs with African Culture Show

The little-known student group, African Students’ Union, made an energetic and well-received debut at the African Culture Show. The event on Saturday evening was full of dancing, music, poetry, comedy, fashion and food at the Union Ballroom. ASU organized the show as a final celebration of African Awareness Week at the U.
“The goal of this week is to bring awareness of the many African cultures here on campus — Africa is not a country, Africa is a continent,” said Grace Amisi, student director of the African Culture Show and leader of the African Students’ Union.
The three-hour show expressed pride for not only an ethnically rich continent, but also for the diversity of each culture. Dinner tables were decorated with small national flags to represent the 54 countries of Africa, and large balloons spelled out “Africa” across the stage.
“I’ve met [students] who have been asking me questions like, ‘Do you speak African?’ There is no language called African — we are languages, many, many languages,” Amisi said.
Some of the performances were traditional, such as the Burundi drummers. A man with a spear and shield entered the stage followed by four others with large African drums balancing on top of their heads and dressed in traditional garb. Intricate beats, chants and dancing were also a part of the ceremonial ritual.
The issue of rape in the Congo was discussed in a choreographed poetry reading.
“I think a lot of people don’t understand what is happening in the country,” said Brandi Mendez, one of the readers. “I was very unaware of it before preparing for this poetry reading as well. It was an eye-opening experience.”
Members of ASU also performed a silent drama expressing a picture of the unified African journey. The last performance was a fashion show of the traditional dress from African countries. Representatives of each country came onto the stage waving their flags, cheering “Africa!” at the end the show. ASU invited the audience to an after-party that continued the cultural celebration.
“Positive things happening in Africa are eclipsed by the negative things,” Amisi said. “Bad things move very fast, so we need to talk about positive things, too. Positive things inspire — that’s the goal of this initiative.”
The Diversity Board of ASUU supported the event.
“I was just amazed by the number of people who came,” Amisi said. “We just want to be visible on campus and spread our vision.”
He hoped to get other departments involved with their vision in the future. Their next project is the African Economy Conference, which will be coming Fall Semester 2013.
“We want to start bringing key players of Africa, like politicians, members of the African Union and African ambassadors to the [United States] and organize a conference around different topics,” he said.
One of ASU’s goals is to talk to the Board of Regents about the lack of African Studies offered at the U.
“The University of Utah is a flagship university — other universities like Utah State have African Studies. Why don’t we?” Amisi said.